Felix Hernandez has finally found his groove for the Seattle Mariners this season. After he started out this season quite terribly, I started fearing that there might be something wrong with his arm that he wasn't telling anyone. Over his last three starts though, Hernandez has proven that it was just a momentary struggle.
It was amazing to watch Hernandez pitch against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night (June 28). He ended up pitching a complete game shutout, giving up just 5 hits and striking out 13 Red Sox hitters. It tied his career-high for strikeouts in a single game, but it took 128 pitches for him to get it done. It was very obvious that Hernandez had to dig down deep for some energy in the ninth inning and thank goodness the Mariners scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 1-0.
In his last three starts, Hernandez has given up just 2 earned runs for an ERA of 0.76. That's 23 innings of pitching in which he allowed just 17 hits and struck out 30 opposing hitters.
The success in June has allowed Hernandez to improve his record to 6-5 on the season and drop his ERA to 3.09. He is encroaching on numbers that would deserve a spot on the American League All-Star team, but it is probably too far into the season for that to take place.
With the way that the year started out, it looks like Hernandez will again fail to reach high double digits in wins. In the past two seasons, Hernandez has only won 13 and 14 games respectively and I had hoped that this season he could threaten the 20-win mark. It's not going to happen at this point, but maybe he could continue to do well enough that his loss totals remain in single digits.
Hernandez will likely make just one more start before the All-Star break, with that game coming on Tuesday, July 3, against the Baltimore Orioles. Then he will get a long break off, most likely leading to a start against the Texas Rangers on Friday, July 13, when the teams return to action. I think he could probably use the time off, but hopefully Hernandez doesn't lose the momentum that he has built up with his three latest starts.
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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!